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NATO's Role in Democratic Reform

By Jos Boonstra (01/05/2007) Working Paper

As NATO has moved from being a primarily military alliance to seeking more political roles, it has become pertinent to consider its impact on democratisation.

At first glance, it might seem incongruent even to deliberate on the democracy promotion relevance of an essentially military organisation. But, NATO’s successive enlargements have often hinged on the fulfilment of democratic preconditions in aspirant members, while technical assistance provided under the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and other programmes has increasingly focused on the reform of civilmilitary relations.

Assessment is consequently warranted of whether NATO has come to play any positive role in encouraging democratisation across different regions, or whether its impact on political liberalisation has been either marginal or even  negative.

This paper argues that support for democracy has increasingly infused  NATO policies, but that the organisation’s role in democracy promotion is circumscribed by strategic considerations; most often an indirect side effect of other aims; and most relevant to the niche area of defence reform.

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Central Asia. South Caucasus. Eastern Europe. The Balkans. EU. NATO. OSCE. Security Sector Reform. Democratisation.

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FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.

Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.

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FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.

Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.

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